On Saturday night at UFC 236, Israel Adesanya made himself a star after defeating Kelvin Gastelum in a five-round thriller that some have called the best middleweight title fight of all time. By capturing the interim middleweight title, Adesanya has lined himself up for a unification bout against reigning champion Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker.
On Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show yesterday, Whittaker commended Israel Adesanya for his ability to get triumph through adversity but also claimed that Gastelum exposed holes in the new interim champion’s game.
“If you watch the fight you can see the holes that were there from every fight before, they just got exposed bigger. There were a lot holes and there were a lot of things Gastelum exploited, and there were a lot of things Gastelum could’ve exploited but couldn’t because of his makeup, because of his striking style, because of his height, his reach. Gastelum was getting in. Gastelum was landing that left. I’ll get in, I’ll land my right. I’m much faster than Gastelum. I’m a better striker, I’m more comfortable there. I stay on the outside, I don’t stay in that mid-ground. Israel should be very worried. I’m a very hard fight.”
The two contenders have been on each other’s radar for quite some time now, with Adesanya predicting a meeting with Whittaker after his bonus-winning victory over Rob Wilkinson in February last year. Talking to Ariel Helwani on “The MMA Hour”, Adesanya was asked about a title shot in the future. He responded:
“Probably next year; I feel it will be the end of next year. I don’t know why, but I feel it will be me, and if Robert can hold onto the belt it will be me and him, Spark Arena. I’m even getting chills right now when I say it. Yeah, I’ve seen it and I can see it happening by the end of next year”
Adesanya’s prophesy will come true later this year in a bout that is shaping up to be massive. The UFC are looking to book the contest in a huge stadium in Australia that would likely break live gate records. The UFC live gate record is currently held by UFC 205: McGregor vs Alvarez, boasting a live gate of $17.7 million. Adesanya hopes for a 60 to 80 thousand seater stadium, so should the event sell out, it would shatter the current record and then some.
Whittaker would love the chance to defend the title in front of his home crowd, in what would be his third scheduled title defence, having had two bouts cancelled due to injury. A hopeful Whittaker said:
“I haven’t heard too much just yet but third times the charm. If I can get it in Australia, surely this time. . . Definitely Sydney. I want it in Sydney. I want it in my backyard. I haven’t fought here since my middleweight debut and I really want to do that. It’s one of the things I want to do, defend my belt in Sydney, home ground, backyard. Third times the charm.”